BY MELANIE WADE –
The Arkansas Department of Health is now reporting that 12 Arkansans have died as a result of influenza this season and Polk County is one of few in the state to not be a hot zone of the illness. However, the introduction of flu to an area can come quickly and with the following of several tips, can be combated to reduce the impact.
Last week, Arkansas reported “Widespread” activity to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for geographic spread of influenza, and “High” or 10/10 for Influenza like Illness (ILI) intensity.
Since October 1, 2017, over 7,000 positive influenza tests have been reported to the ADH online database by health care providers. 70 counties in Arkansas have reported influenza cases.
The Pulse reached out to the local hospital to see the impact in Polk County. “The influenza virus has been widespread this season. At Mena Regional Health System, 34 patients tested positive for the virus, several of those being admitted due to complications with the illness. Mena Medical Associates, a division of Mena Regional Health System, reported 87 positive results through December 31. This report shows only a fraction of flu cases in Polk County considering many individuals endure the illness without consulting with a doctor for medical diagnoses,” said Sonya Maye, MRHS Marketing/Public Relations Director.
The Department of Health is urging Arkansans to stay home if they have a fever or other symptoms that could be flu-related. They also remind everyone to practice good hand hygiene, get a flu shot, and to think of flu if there is fever or cough to prevent the spread. Going to work, school, or even holiday events while contagious could spread the flu. People are generally contagious one to two days before symptoms start and five to seven days after symptoms start.
Flu symptoms include fever, chills, cough, sore throat, muscle or body aches, fatigue and a headache. Symptoms may also include vomiting and diarrhea in children. Influenza antiviral prescription drugs, like Tamiflu, can be used to treat or prevent influenza if started soon after symptoms begin.
The twelve flu-related deaths this flu season in Arkansas all occurred with people over the age of 65. People who are at a higher risk for complications from the flu include: Children aged two years old and younger; Adults aged 65 years and older; Pregnant women, or women up to two weeks after delivering a child; People with a suppressed immune system; People with chronic health problems, like asthma, diabetes, cancer and heart disease; residents of nursing homes or other chronic care facilities.
It is recommended that everyone aged 6 months and older get the flu shot every year. It is especially important for pregnant women and others at high risk for complications. The flu shot is available in Local Health Units located in every county and many doctor’s offices. Pharmacies also have flu shots available but do not give flu shots to children younger than seven years of age.
For more information visit www.healthy.arkansas.gov.